In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published a book that changed the course of American history. Her brutal depiction of slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin illustrated the real human cost of the defining political controversy of her time. Stowe’s tale of one fictional family’s devastating experience with slavery is based on “a collection and arrangement of real incidents” which she describes as a “mosaic of facts.” (A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1858)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was an instant best-seller that brought the debate about slavery into most American homes. It changed what people knew and understood about it, and shed light on how our laws perpetuated the practice. When Americans in the North accepted the truth about slavery, their resolve to outlaw it strengthened. It was not enough to be personally opposed to slavery; they were willing to take up arms to end it.
Abortion is the defining political controversy of our time; but do we know and understand its real human cost?
A recent report shows that 31,818 abortions were committed in Pennsylvania in 2015. (This is 308 fewer than in 2014.) All but a handful of these abortions used one of three methods:
Medical/Non-Surgical. (11,314 abortions) For pregnancies up to 10 weeks, chemicals are used to end the life of the baby. A woman takes Mifepristone (RU-486) in the form of a pill at an abortion clinic. “By blocking the action of progesterone, mifepristone alters the endometrium (the uterine lining), induces bleeding, and causes the uterine lining to shed.” (www.medicationabortions.com) With blood and nourishment cut off, the baby dies inside his mother’s womb. One or two days later, the woman takes another drug called Misoprostol (Cytotec) which causes contractions and bleeding to expel the dead baby from the womb.
Suction Curettage. (18,908 abortions) Also known as vacuum aspiration, this method is used between 5 and 14 weeks of gestation. Typically the woman’s cervix is dilated then a plastic tube “is carefully and gently inserted into the uterus and then attached to a suction, or vacuum aspiration, machine. When the machine is turned on … the contents of the uterus will be emptied … To ensure that the abortion is complete, extracted tissue is examined immediately after the procedure.” (The Abortion Resource Handbook (1997), pg. 152) In layman’s terms, the living unborn child, now about 4-5 inches long, is forcibly sucked out of her mother’s womb. Then technicians count the arms, legs, head and torso to make sure all parts of the baby are accounted for.
Dilation & Evacuation. (1,588 abortions) This particularly gruesome method is used for later-term abortions between 13 and 24 weeks. Abortions after 24 weeks are illegal. The woman’s cervix is dilated. The amniotic fluid is suctioned out first, and then the doctor inserts a sharp instrument to dismember the live baby inside the womb. The tool has sharp teeth that firmly grip the child’s arms, legs, torso, and head. One by one, the body parts are forcibly ripped off and removed from the uterus. The baby’s head at this stage is too big to pull out intact, so the doctor will crush it before pulling it out. Babies at this second-trimester stage have fingerprints and toenails, and they can feel pain. Their mothers start to feel them kicking, and many babies born at 20 weeks will survive outside the womb. (abortionprocedures.com)
A new legislative session has begun in Harrisburg presenting fresh opportunities to shape pro-life public policy. With faith, perseverance, and the courage to tell the truth, abolitionists in the 19th century outlawed slavery. Will citizens 150 years from now say the same about us and abortion?
Reading about the brutal practice of abortion is painful for many. If someone you know suffers because of involvement with abortion, please encourage him or her to talk to a priest or contact the nearest Project Rachel Ministry by visiting the “Find Help” map at www.hopeafterabortion.com or www.esperanzaposaborto.com or calling (866) 3RACHEL . . . . And please pray that many will seek and receive the gift of God’s infinite mercy.
JANUARY 2017 column. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at www.pacatholic.org, www.facebook.com/pacatholic, and www.twitter.com/pacatholic.